art direction

Rita Goulão

This week are excitedly crossing the pond to chat with Rita Goulão, an Art Director, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and DJ from Porto, Portugal, who is currently based in Barcelona. Rita is fond of giving brands an image, illustrating good ideas, communicating with graphics and lettering everything from work to everyday post-its. 

We are lucky to have her as a member of our Creative Lady Directory and grateful for her fresh perspective. Thanks for sharing Rita! 

Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance art director, graphic designer, and illustrator.

Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to do something art related. I used to copy typefaces and letterings from magazines, I’d ask my mom to pick animals or objects for me to draw and I’d do my own cd covers, posters, and secret club membership cards. My dad was also a graphic designer so that also influenced me, although I always felt like I wanted to pick my own career and not follow his footsteps. Guess I couldn’t avoid it.
I studied Communication Design in college (Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto) and in the first year I was absolutely sure that was what I wanted to do. I almost immediately started to work as a freelancer. I was already uploading illustrations and personal projects to a few online platforms (DeviantArt even before college, then Fotolog, Myspace and others) and also started doing some pro-bono for friends. Later I started charging for my work, got new clients and the rest is history…I just kept going and haven’t stopped since!

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

Like I mentioned before, by publishing personal work online and doing lots of pro-bono at first. I don’t remember ever being unoccupied. If I wasn’t doing college work, I was doing illustrations just for the fun of it or working for Monster Jinx, an independent music label formed by friends. All the album covers, posters, and t-shirts I did for them (hundreds! haha) really helped me to get out there and start getting real clients.
Also, the personal illustration work I was doing started to get me invitations for zines, for collective exhibitions in galleries… and people started buying my things. It feels good when you start making money out of what you love to do.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

A few, although I sometimes fail at accomplishing some myself!
First, routines! Waking up at the same time every day and getting ready as if you’re going out to work helps to get in the working mood.
Freelancing at home can be tough sometimes, specially because it might get a little lonely. If it’s working for you, great! (I’m trying to make it work at this time) If you’re struggling, co-working is a great option - you always have people around, the environment encourages you to work (you don’t want people passing by seeing you procrastinate by watching internet kitties) and depending on the place, you might have the luck of having other creatives there with whom you can collaborate.
Make to do lists with everything you have to do in order of importance - it empties out your mind and tasks are not as overwhelming when you can look at them anytime. Also, try to cut down on every possible procrastinating source! Keep away from instagram, facebook, blogs and whatever else.
Music (preferably with no lyrics) while doing more intellectual tasks and podcasts while doing more manual/automatic work really help me focus too.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

I’d say managing clients and projects. I try to plan my work schedule as well as I can but I’m still struggling with it. Some projects end up taking more time than initially planned, which delay other projects, payments, and keep me from accepting more work sometimes.
Putting a price on what I do is always really difficult for me too… Am I undercharging, overcharging? It would be amazing to have some sort of a manager so I could worry more about keeping the creative juices flowing and less about keeping the business on point. Also, it can get kind of lonely. I’m used to working by myself but I often wonder how nice it would be to have someone to discuss ideas with.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Being the one in charge of the final product. It’s great to do what you believe in, own your ideas and creative concepts and have no one above you to abort the mission before it’s even launched. Having schedule flexibility is great too, as well as being able to do so much different work.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I try to accept work I identify with and keep doing what I love to. If commercial projects aren’t going exactly where I like (let’s face it, everyone does something they’re not 100% proud of) I try to compensate with personal ones whenever I have the time. And of course, uploading it on my website, behance and other platforms like instagram. You have to be out there to be found.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

I try to keep away from the computer and absorb things outside the working space. This might not always happen during the week, but I always try to do different things on the weekends. Traveling is always a huge creative boost and so is changing the work environment as well (perks of being a freelancer). When I have some sort of creative block I also try to change the tools/techniques I’m using and get away from my comfort zone.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

You are also a DJ and a radio show host. How does your passion for music impact your design work?

I think it’s an ongoing inspiration. I listen to a lot of music while working and all the different moods and genres can definitely influence the outcome of certain projects. Sometimes I’m designing and involuntarily discovering tunes for Mineralogy, my radioshow. And the fact that I’m somehow in midst of the music world (although I’m not a musician or producer of any sorts) helps me get music related clients. It’s great to work alongside artists and interpret their music visually.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Always use a precise contract. Protect yourself from late payments, work ownership, timings and define, from the start, exactly what is to be expected from you.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Try to log out at the end of the day and weekends. Nowadays, I only work nights and weekends when I have a really tight deadline, but I’m making an effort to have the time off most 9 to 5’ers have. You need it to stay sane and be with your people.


The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Hard work, resilience and a good dose of chill pills.
Rita Goulao | Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Rita

W E B S I T E  |  I N S T A G R A M  |  F A C E B O O K

Liz Grant

This week we have the sincere pleasure of chatting with California-based graphic designer Liz Grant. Liz is passionate about creating thoughtful design that has a touch of simplicity and the unexpected. This passion comes through in her work and in the words she so kindly and openly shared with us. We recommend taking a break so you can sit down and soak in all this goodness. 

Liz Grant - FREELANCE WISDOM

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance graphic designer.

After graduating with my B.S. in Graphic Design, I first worked for a college in Washington as one of their in-house designers. At the time, I was long-distance dating my husband who was attending law school in California. Since long distance wasn’t ideal, I started looking for design jobs in California, and was hired by a software company as their designer. During the recession the software company did not have enough full-time work, so I was unexpectedly transitioned to part-time employment. That was when freelance sort of became an option more out of necessity than a deep desire. Now, I had of course done small projects here and there for people on the side, but nothing on a consistent basis. I began networking on social media, started collaborating more with other designers, and created an online portfolio. I found some amazing designers through twitter that had the same passion for design and started forming friendships and working relationships with them. By doing these simple things I started getting freelance work. I certainly didn’t go into the field of design with the intention of becoming a freelance designer, but I am so lucky life veered me in that direction because I truly love the work I do.  

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

Word of mouth. Referrals have been huge for me since the start. Doing good work for each and every client you have, no matter how big or small, is so important when running a small business. You never know who may be referred your way by past clients, so treating them well is crazy important. I also have had clients find me through Instagram, Twitter and even Pinterest. Social media is such a great tool for bringing in clients who connect with your work, value your aesthetic style, and want you as an individual because of what you personally bring to the table.
Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

"Doing good work for each and every client you have, no matter how big or small, is so important when running a small business. You never know who may be referred your way by past clients, so treating them well is crazy important."


Graphic Designer Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I really think it is vital to find when, how, and where your productivity and creativity is best fostered. Whether that be the time of the day or your environment, through trial and error, try to nail down what works best for you. Some feel creative in the wee hours of night, while others enjoy knocking out their work before the sun comes up and the day really begins. Some work best in shared office spaces with the energy that comes from being around others, while others prefer the quiet solitude of a personal home office. Find the best formula that breeds creativity and productivity.
For me personally, I have found that I work best in the mornings. Focus has to be one of the biggest keys to productivity. My mind is the most focused at the start of the day so that is when I work on items that need my creative attention the most. I like knowing I have gotten something done early on, just in case the rest of the day gets away from me. I usually try to tackle the most important items on my TeuxDeux list and do my best to try to avoid the productivity killer of social media. But as you all know, that is always a challenge. During those hours in the day where you know you aren’t the most creative, maybe prioritize admin items, and email responses. Don’t try to force creativity, let it come to you in an organic way. I try to make sure I allow for time to create an array of bad content, so that I am not stressed out and have time for that good content to come to fruition.
Graphic Design - Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom
Liz Grant | Freelance Wisdom
After having a babe, I have had to be much more flexible with my ideal work time. I have just finally started to get back into a creative groove again after the transition of having a baby this past year, and I have rediscovered my productivity vibes in the early evening after he goes to bed as well. I am definitely not taking on the amount of projects, or working the amount of hours I use to. I do get some babysitting assistance from my in-laws, who we recently moved closer too. That time is limited, however, so I have to really try to prioritize and work as efficiently as possible within those hours. I know eventually I may want to hire someone to help with babysitting allowing me to get more done on a daily basis, but I am also trying to be present while he is this age. I know these days where I get to be home with him are numbered and before I know it he will be in school and I will have more hours to focus on work, but for now I am trying embrace these days.
I will say I have definitely become much more selective in the work that I take on in this season of life. I only have so many hours to create, and I want to work with folks who value my work as a designer. If I am going to be sitting at my computer, I want it to be for the purpose of creating work I am proud of. I truly want to be evolving as a designer, and taking on the type of projects that propel me forward and into areas that challenge me creatively. Taking breaks, walking away from the computer when you are forcing creativity, getting out into nature, these are just a few ways I have found that helps me to work more efficiently and create in a more productive manner.
Brand Design - Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

Learning to say no. I use to say yes to everything. Now, at the start I don’t think this is a negative. When you are first starting out into the world of freelance design I think taking on work where it is offered is a way to hone your skills and build your portfolio. But, once you are more established in your field, I think saying yes to everything can start to really kill your creativity. After a good amount of trial and error, I have figured out that it pays to take the time to get to know a potential client before taking on a project. I am not a good fit for every client, and in the same way every client is not a good fit for me. Ask the right questions right at the start. Figure out what projects are truly in your wheelhouse and which ones you should pass along to someone who is a better fit. Early on in the conversation I analyze whether the project is something I want to take on, if I am the best fit for the specific needs of the project, and if the design direction lines up with my own aesthetic. Having those different elements align helps me to feel inspired and create the best outcome and final product for my clients.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The flexibility and versatility that comes with working for yourself in an area you feel passionate about. Choosing projects and clients that I connect with drives me. Those first stages of concepting the design direction and creating a mess on your artboard are always crazy. At different times you think, nothing is working how you want it to work. But, then when you finally land on something and find a visual solution you know truly represents their brand, that is the best feeling.
Graphic Design - Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

"Those first stages of concepting the design direction and creating a mess on your artboard are always crazy. At different times you think, nothing is working how you want it to work. But, then when you finally land on something and find a visual solution you know truly represents their brand, that is the best feeling."


How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I think presenting a cohesive vibe through your social media presence is pretty crucial. Try to use a similar voice throughout your online presence. I hate to use the word ‘authentic’ because it can sound so cliche, but presenting your truest self will bring in the type of clients who will want to work with you. Also, lately I have been doing my best to try to post more recent work in my portfolio. It is so easy to work for clients and never take the time to work for myself. I find it so much more challenging making time for my own brand. But, I think it is really important as designers to put the work we create out into the world, showing the kind of work you want is necessary to bringing in more clients that speak the same language visually as you do. What you put out you get back. If you don’t want to do anymore wedding suites, stop posting those. If you want to design book covers, start a personal project and challenge yourself to put it out for your audience to view. Whatever you put out there, that is what is going to resonate with people. So show only the best and the type of work you want to be doing more of.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Hire people who know what they are doing and who have strengths in areas that you may not be as solid in. This allows more time for you to focus on the aspects of your business that are your strengths. For example, I hired someone right at the start to help me set up and teach me the basics of Quickbooks. I had no idea what I was doing, and spending that time learning how to account for items correctly and how to invoice clients was such a lifesaver. I also have decided to pay someone to do my taxes each year. Just doing these two things has saved me a ton of headaches and made things much more organized once tax season comes around every year.
Illustration - Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

This is the constant struggle. I honestly don’t think there is an exact perfect formula to finding a work-life balance. I think at different times in your life the balance shifts between both, if that makes sense. Before I had a baby, I used to work super late at night, through the weekends, but it wasn’t exactly necessary and I wasn’t working all that efficiently. About two years ago I started to slow down, and started trying to work better and smarter. Of course anyone who has little ones knows how your time changes once those babes come into your life. Priorities shift and your days are not just your own. This can totally be an amazing time and a positive thing if you try to flow with this change and learn a new way of how to work, and be flexible with it all. You really have to prioritize differently by working better, creating more efficiently, and doing it all on a bit less sleep. I really want my little boy to grow up seeing his mama happily pursuing something she is passionate about, hopefully it will inspire him in some small way to find something he loves and feels a purpose in and then work for it.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Organization, Good Communication, Drive.
Brand Identity - Liz Grant - Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Liz

W E B S I T E  |  I N S T A G R A M  |  T W I T T E R  |  P I N T E R E S T

 

Wesley Bird

Wesley Bird is an Art Director, Illustrator, and Designer currently living in Los Angeles, California. 

After majoring in painting and printmaking at San Diego State, Wesley got her start working in the art department at Hurley. Three years later she moved to Sydney, Australia to work with Hurley's International division. Wesley currently works as an Art Director at Society6, responsible for all marketing creatives and initiatives. As a freelancer she has illustrated designs for home goods sold exclusively at Urban Outfitters, created custom apparel graphics for Mate the Label and Daydreamer LA, and illustrated type projects for clients and personal promotion.  

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer, illustrator, and art director. 

It evolved pretty naturally actually. I studied painting and printmaking in college and interned at Hurley after my first year of school. It was there that I learned how to use the Adobe design programs and all about apparel design, production and printing techniques. After school I worked for another surf company doing apparel and graphic design. It was a very small company so I wore a lot of hats and just learned along the way. I worked on tech packs, marketing materials, apparel graphics, went to design tradeshows and grew a ton. I then went back to Hurley to work in the art department and design women’s apparel graphics and textile prints.
After a few years, I started to feel a little burnt out on apparel and made the shift to marketing design at Society6. When I started there, our marketing team was myself and one other person. I was given the freedom to build a lifestyle brand with very little direction and hand-holding, which meant I learned how to shoot lifestyle photography, build emails, create marketing campaigns, and learn how to read data so I knew what was working and what wasn’t. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, and again, I learned a ton. After almost two years at Society6 I was promoted to Art Director and that’s what I am currently doing while freelancing on the side.
I think it was important for me to get a degree in fine art. It helps me as an illustrator to not feel confined by my computer. If there is something I can’t solve with a cursor, I can pick up a pencil and paper and work it out that way. All of my time spent in marketing design helped me learn best practices and become a smarter and more effective creative. I know some people do just fine starting out as freelancers and I am incredibly impressed by these people, but I am definitely not one of them! I needed the structure of a full-time job, a corporate environment, difficult bosses and creative directors to thicken my skin and teach me better communication skills to be an effective freelancer. Everything I learned in my early days of design shaped who I am now and taught me skills I can offer my clients now as a freelancer! It also taught me accountability, organization, and patience. All of which are incredibly important when working for yourself!

"If there is something I can’t solve with a cursor, I can pick up a pencil and paper and work it out that way."


In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients? 

Honestly, it was from posting my work on Society6. At the time, back in 2010, they had a licensing program with Urban Outfitters and I was selected for inclusion in their print shop program. My art prints were sold on Urbanoutfitters.com and in their stores and it got me a lot of good exposure. From there I just started to get freelancing requests from clients who had seen my art at UO and it just kind of went from there. At that time I was also working in the Art Department at Hurley, and as I posted the work I was doing there on my website and social I got a lot of interest that way too.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

I make lists and love checking off items. I am also a huge advocate for taking breaks and going outside. Thankfully, I have a dog on a schedule so it forces me to get out of the house and walk a few times a day without a screen in front of my face. Also, I know I work best in the morning so I try to knock out as much work as possible while the juices are flowing and then I stress less in the afternoon. I have a lot of friends who are most productive in the afternoon so it’s just about knowing when you’re at your best and taking advantage of your energy and inspiration! 
WesBirdRaiseHell.png

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

I am not the most patient person and I expect a lot, sometimes too much, from myself. These are pretty terrible traits when it comes to freelancing haha. We’ve all had those clients that drive us up the wall, give terrible feedback, and very rarely, make us hate our jobs. It’s in those moments of terrible impatience and intense personal pressure that I have to remind myself how grateful I am to have these talents and be able to create for others.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Every new project is so different! I love the variety. I also love the feeling of wrapping a project where the client leaves stoked. That “feel good” moment is probably the best part.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients? 

I think it’s important to stay active on social media, post on your blog if you have one, and keep your website fresh and up-to-date with your best work. In periods of less freelance work, create work for fun that represents your own design style. The ultimate goal as a freelancer is to attract clients that want you for you, not just someone who knows Photoshop and can follow orders. So constantly post personal and client work that you are proud of on your social channels. Social media can serve you in two ways, it can act as a mini work and life portfolio and it shows potential clients that you are busy and have other work. This makes you relatable and desirable. The ultimate win, win!

"In periods of less freelance work, create work for fun that represents your own design style."


Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty­-gritty business details? 

This is my ultimate least favorite part of freelance work (doesn’t every designer say this?!). I am pretty bad at responding quickly to emails, but it’s one of the things I promised myself I would work on for 2016. I literally have to schedule an hour a few nights a week in my iCal for answering emails. If I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen and emails (aka projects and MONEY) just get lost in the void.
Invoicing is my favorite admin thing to do because I actually fully designed out my invoices so they look rad - and I kid you not, just doing that made the whole process way more fun for me. If that’s what it will take for you to get stoked about invoicing, do it! I tricked my mind into thinking it’s fun haha.
Lastly, definitely hire an accountant. I married one so I totally lucked out (he gets weirdly excited about doing our taxes). But don’t let the stresses of trying to figure out how much you owe the government get in the way of your happiness. You will be more organized and productive and your quality of life will just be better if you hire a professional.

Since you still work for Society6 and freelance on the side, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-­life balance?

Honestly, it’s hard! But having a full-time job has actually given me the freedom to be pickier about the freelance I take on. I am pretty good about knowing my limits so if I know I simply can’t handle one more thing, I will say no. I think it’s okay to do this. Not only would you be sacrificing your quality of life, but you’d be giving your clients less than 100%. I have had clients wait a decent amount of time until my calendar cleared up just to work with me. People respect honesty.
I’m not going to lie though, there are times where my husband has gently told me to shut down work for the night. Know your limits - and if you have a partner, know their limits too :)

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Great communication skills, Organized, Efficient

Get Social with Wesley

W E B S I T E  | I N S T A G R A M  |  T W I T T E R